Please introduce yourselves.
“Hi, my name is Niti Patel, and together with Soham Arvikar and Aska Undhad, we are all Grade 12 Westwood Community High School Students and together, we are Advocate 2 Educate.” - Niti Patel
Can you tell us about your organization and the work you do?
“Advocate 2 Educate (a youth-led organization based out of Fort McMurray) is dedicated to providing the resources needed to educate youth worldwide, especially in developing countries. We aim to collect school supplies throughout the year to donate them to communities and families in need. We have collected a significant amount of essential school supplies over the last two years. Our supplies range from notebooks and paper to pencils, erasers, and more. We have collected approximately $10,000 in school supplies within the last two years! Let alone this year, which resulted in collecting nearly 2,000 supplies from all schools collectively!
This past year, we contacted all the local schools, connecting with 11 for donations. Out of the 11 schools, we received donations from Walter and Gladys Hill, Westwood Community High School, Ecole McTavish, Ecole Dickinsfield, Christina Gordon, Dave McNeilly, Thickwood Heights School and Timberlea Public School from the Fort McMurray Public School Division. FMPSD has been an enormous help throughout our journey, and we are so grateful for the support we’ve received.” - Aska Undhad
How did the organization start?
“It originally started as an organization by my sister pre-COVID; unfortunately, due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the organization slowed down and eventually ended as she went to university. Three years ago, I started looking into it and seeing the actual disparities in our community and saw the need for school supply support for less fortunate families; from there, I approached Niti and Aska to assist me in restarting the original organization and restructuring it to accommodate modern needs. When we began the organization, we remodelled it and put in a lot of time and effort into getting Advocate 2 Educate at this stage.” - Soham Arvikar
Aska and Niti, what made you want to partner with Soham and join A2E?
“My parents worked very hard to get into a foreign country and to afford everything we have; that went hand in hand with the goal of Advocate 2 Educate. Being able to give back to kids is what fueled my desire to be a part of the organization. I give my all to make our collective goal a reality.” - Aska Undhad
“Extremely similar to Aska, we’re second-generation immigrants, so I understand the struggles some of our families might also be going through. Ultimately though, I love seeing kids happy and being able to give back to them; it’s an incredibly lovely feeling to have.” - Niti Patel
How active is the organization? What is the process like for collecting and distributing supplies?
“The organization is active the entire school year; we usually start approaching schools around April and May. We call the schools directly to talk with the school administration teams to inquire about school supply lists and additional school supplies that schools might have but still need to fully utilize that far into the school year. Our process to secure supplies for students is simple; we stay diligent and provide consistent communication to ensure transparency and success in our cause.
At the end of the school year, we always give out school supplies in our free ‘garage sale’. Although we never ask for financial support, we are thankful to community members and individual donors who’ve been able to donate to offset shipping costs for new supplies we purchase online or donate new supplies directly. The supplies that we’ve collected in the past two years have a value of approximately $7500. In those two years, these donations have gone to 100 students and three youth centres, and just this past year, we received $100 in financial donations as well.” - Aska Undhad
You mentioned this being a three-year process; what has your organization accomplished in the three years?
“We’ve done two cycles of Advocate 2 Educate so far. We started planning initially when we were in Grade 10 and have completed two cycles of the program so far. We’ve collected more in our third year. Still, that first year was creating a system to build our database of what schools already had similar systems in place, what schools had extra supplies they’d be willing to donate to our cause and what schools’ needs were for supplies.” - Niti Patel
What are the future plans for Advocate 2 Educate beyond graduation?
“We have a junior team we’ve brought on this summer to help with sorting, making kits and what the process is like for asking for supplies. Our ideal situation is to grow the organization. Even though we graduate this year, the organization leaves a lasting impact for years and is carried on by other students. We have longevity in mind for the organzation since we’ll still be connected to our peers and be able to guide them as they are all in Grades 10 or 9, so our organization has fantastic years ahead of us. We received a lot of applicantions to join our team, but we carefully vetted with peers who had goals that aligned with ours and wanted to ensure they were in it for the long run with genuine intentions.” - Aska Undhad
“You need maturity when finding your successors for something like this. Dealing with school supplies and giving them out to people in need is an incredibly vulnerable process to ask for help from youth; we, as organizers, need to be mature and sensitive about why people are receiving our supplies.” - Soham Arvikar
How can people support or track your organization’s progress?
“For families that have those financial struggles and still want to be able to provide their children with necessities for their school year, it can be a huge weight taken off their shoulders with organizations like ours. We suggest checking out our social media, as we are most active on our Instagram and Facebook accounts (@adv2edu)!
We appreciate all the support we have garnered across the years; we are determined to expand our organization to an even greater platform than it is now.” - Aska Undhad
For additional information, contact:
Fort McMurray Public School Division